Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Macular degeneration treatable if caught early

Dr. Sibley

Dr. Sibley

I see dozens of 40-year-olds in my eye surgery practice every week. Half of them are interested in having Lasik so they can throw away their glasses. The other half have brought in their aging parents, seeking a cure for their failing eyesight.

Almost always my exam confirms that the parents have the start of central vision loss caused by macular degeneration.

Ideally, treatment should have started when they were the age of the children who now drive them to my office.

I can do a lot more for the 40-year-old child than I can for the parent.

In fact, preventing AMD starts even earlier, with a lifetime of good health habits.

What is AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative condition of the macula or central retina, where the central vision is focused.

It doesn't cause total blindness, because peripheral vision isn't affected. But the loss of central vision can make reading, watching TV or driving impossible.

It is the most common cause of central vision loss in the Western world in adults over 50. It most commonly affects whites, especially females with blue eyes. It is uncommon in African-Americans and Hispanics with brown eyes.

It affects about 15 percent of the population by age 55 and more than 30 percent by age 75. Almost 10 million Americans have the condition.

What can be done?

Early diagnosis is critical to preventing further damage, one reason that everyone over 40 should have an eye exam.

There are two varieties of AMD: dry and wet, in which vessels leak blood. In some cases of wet macular degeneration, laser surgery can seal leaking or bleeding vessels, but this only prevents further damage. It doesn't restore lost vision.

New medicines are having dramatic results in reversing and stopping this bleeding and even restoring sight — but only when taken early enough.

How can I prevent AMD?

Genetics, race, gender and age are all contributing factors you can't control. But nutrition, sunlight exposure and especially smoking are all well within your control.

Here are three tips to prevent blindness — and improve your overall health, too.

1. Up your antioxidants. There is a strong link between nutrition and AMD. Daily doses of Vitamin C (500 mg), Vitamin E (400 iu), beta-carotene (5,000 iu), lutein (2-10 mg), and zinc (up to 80 mg), selenium and manganese may help. Diets rich in antioxidants, especially Omega-3 oils, fish, olive oil, green leafy vegetables and fruits, will help protect the eyes — as well as the rest of the body.

2. Block that sun. Scientific evidence has proven the same ultraviolet rays that damage your skin also accelerate macular degeneration and cataracts. Everyone in Florida should wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UVB rays (just remember: "B" stands for bad). The lens color, darkness, polarizing and cost don't matter.

3. Kick the habit. We all know what smoking does to the lungs. But it's a leading cause of macular degeneration and blindness, too.

Of course, there are people who do everything right and still get macular degeneration. But since these steps have been proven to improve your odds of living a longer, healthier life with better vision, why wouldn't you take them?

Mark A. Sibley, M.D., F.A.C.S., of the Florida Eye Center in St. Petersburg, is a board-certified eye surgeon and team eye doctor for the Tampa Bay Rays. Contact him at (727) 895-2020 or through

Try this at home:

An Amsler grid comparison can help you recognize if you may have wet macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration treatable if caught early 08/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 1:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    Associated Press

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane


    AUTAUGAVILLE, Ala. —The screen door hangs open to Laura's Country Kitchen but the dining room is empty with no one to feed.

    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.
  3. St. Pete Pride schedule and live blog

    Special Topics

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth Avenue …

    A local business rings in Pride 2017 with some window decorations.
  4.   Jake Faria has pitched 6-1/3 innings and has allowed one run in each of this first three starts.